According to Dr. Andrew Weil, prickly pears (a type of cactus) help control blood sugar levels in patients who are pre-diabetic or diabetic. His colleague, Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, also claims that prickly pears are popularly used in Mexican society to prevent the negative symptoms of hangovers. Dr. Tieraona Low Dog attributes the healing effect of prickly pears to the antioxidants and Vitamin C found in the cacti.
Along with controlling blood sugar levels and preventing a bad hangover, prickly pears lower bad cholesterol (LDL) without affecting good cholesterol (HDL), according to studies done at the University of Vienna in Austria in 2003. In 1989, the University of California-Davis Small Farm Program claimed that the pureed version of prickly pear pads serve as a laxative smoothie and, when applied topically, have the ability to cure minor wounds.
Along with their many health benefits, prickly pears also have some commercial uses. The University of California-Davis Small Farm Program mentions that dried prickly pear pads can be pounded into strong fibers that are used to make baskets, fabrics, mats and paper. This plant, with its ability to thrive in arid regions, plays a role in the ranching industry by providing animals a source of water in times of drought. However, if animals consume prickly pears in excess, they develop diarrhea.